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Weak verbs

Some weak verbs preserved the root-vowel interchange, though some of the vowels were altered due to regular quantitative and qualitative vowel changes: ME sellen — solde (OE salde > Early ME ['sa:lde] > Late ME ['so:lde] > NE sold [sould]), techen—taughte; NE sell—sold, teach — taught.

Another group of weak verbs became irregular in Early ME as a result of quantitative vowel changes. In verbs like OE cepan, fedan, metan the long vowel in the root was shortened before two consonants in the Past and Participle II; OE cepte > ME kepte ['kepte]. The long vowel in the Present tense stem was preserved and was altered during the Great Vowel Shift, hence the interchange [i: > e], NE keep — kept, feed—fed. This group of verbs attracted several verbs from other classes — NE sleep, weep, read, which formerly belonged to Class 7 of strong verbs. Some verbs of this group—NE mean, feel—have a voiceless [t]

Verbs like OE settan, with the root ending in a dental consonant, added the dental suffix without the intervening vowel [e] OE sette. When the inflections were reduced and dropped, the three stems of the verbs Present, Past and Participle II fell together: NE set—se—set; put—put—put: cast—cast—cast. etc. The final -t of the root had absorbed the dental suffix. (Wherever possible the distinctions were preserved or even introduced: thus OE sendan, restan, which had the same forms sende, reste for the Past, Present appear in ME as senden - sente, resten - rested(e).

It must be noted that although the number of non-standard verbs in Mod E is not large about 200 items they constitute an important feature of the language. Most of them belong to the basic layer of the vocabulary, have a high frequency of occurrence and are widely used in word-formation and phraseological units. Their significance for the grammatical system lies in the fact that many of these verbs have preserved the distinction between three principal forms, which makes modern grammarians recognise three stems in all English verbs despite the formal identity of the Past and Participle II.

ME ben (NE be) inherited its suppletive forms from the OE and more remote periods of history. It owes its variety of forms not only to suppletion but also to the dialectal divergence in OE and ME and to the inclusion of various dialectal traits in literary English. The Past tense forms were fairly homogeneous in all the dialects. The forms of the Pres. tense were derived from different roots and displayed considerable dialectal differences. ME am, are(n) came from the Midland dialects and replaced the West Saxon ēom, sint / sindon. In OE the forms with the initial b- from bēon were synonymous and interchangeable with the other forms but in Late ME and NE they acquired a new function: they were used as forms of the Subj. and the Imper. moods or in reference to the future and were thus opposed to the forms of the Pres. Ind.

Hang be the heavens with black, yield day to night! (Sh) Forms with the initial b- were also retained or built in ME as the forms of verbals: ME being/ beande Part. I, ben, y-ben the newly formed Part. II (in OE the verb had no Past Part.); the Inf. ben (NE being, been, be).

The redistribution of suppletive forms in the paradigm of be made it possible to preserve some of the grammatical distinctions which were practically lost in other verbs, namely the distinction of number, person and mood.

Date: 2015-01-29; view: 1240

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